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Future Fencer-- some of our dreams really DO come true!
Susan Richman & Dale Purdy (when in 3rd grade!), 12/6/2011

Editor's note from Susan Richman: I have had the pleasure of serving as homeschooler Dale Purdy's home education program evaluator from early on in his homeschooling right through his graduation last June. At our last meeting, Dale mother, Letitia Berkey, shared something very, very special with me-- the little essay below titled 'Future Fencer' which Dale had written way back in 3rd grade. In it Dale describes his first experiences in the magical world of fencing-- you know, the real thing... swords, competitions, taking classes. It might be any young boy's dream activity-- but Dale persevered through all his homeschooling years with fencing-- it became one of his major extra-curriculars and passions. And he was good at it, too!

Dale's mom shared with me that even way back then, Dale was absolutely sure where he wanted to go to college-- he wanted to go to the University of Notre Dame, so he could be on their fencing team! I knew this was a long shot-- but each year, Dale would reiterate that, yep, Notre Dame was his goal. And he kept on fencing, and kept on completing strong academic coursework. He eventually met with coaches from Notre Dame who'd seen him fence at national tournaments -- they were very interested in him and urged him to apply. Could he just nudge up those SAT scores a bit, so he'd be more readily accepted? Dale took on that challenge too-- and more than met the mark, after diligent study and practice. 

And Dale indeed applied to Notre Dame-- as well as several other schools that each had the type of pre-med program he was looking for in a college. And fencing teams-- an opportunity to be on a university fencing team was always crucial, and definitely helped Dale narrow down his list of possible schools. So, he had choices and options-- but definitely he was most focused on his choice from his youngest years. 

dale purdy & me.jpg

Dale with me after his PHAA Graduation ceremony

The upshot??? Dale got that 'big envelope' in the mail from Notre Dame-- he was in, and he was on the fencing team! He's had a great fall freshman semester, complete with fencing tournaments with his new team. Yes, sometimes we need to listen to our kids when they have major passions and deep interests-- these just really might indicate who our child is and where they are headed.

Reminds me of Alan Obuzor, who I evaluated from 3rd grade through graduation. He had just recently started dance classes with his younger sister when I first met me-- and his mother shared that after just a few ballet classes, he'd come home and looked her right in the eye and told her, "Mom, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life." He soon moved up from his local dance school to the Pittsburgh Ballet program for children-- and then made it into their elite pre-professional program for high school students. He went immediately into the PGH Ballet Theatre Company upon his high school graduation-- and this year I have a homeschool student in my AP US History class who has Alan as a teacher at the PGH Ballet high school program (and he's a terrific teacher, too!). 

Or I think of our son Jacob, who started playing around with computer programming when 7 or 8 years old, when my husband showed him a few things. Howard also showed the other kids some programming basics, but only Jacob took to it-- the others had to be prodded and cajoled and encouraged, but Jacob took to it with a passion. I think probably there was hardly a day that went by after 3rd grade when Jacob didn't do some sort of computer programming task that he'd chosen for himself on an almost daily basis-- and sometimes he'd spend hours on these very creative projects. What's he doing now?? He's a programmer for Google, out in Seattle WA. 

Many times in homeschooling we need to listen  to our kids, see what their unique strengths are and where their true passions lie. It just might be their direction for their future university studies or career. Not all kids will have such clear and focused goals early on-- but when they do... we'd do well to support them. 

And now, here's what Dale wrote in just 3rd grade-- get ready to be charmed! And this wonderful essay also shows that when homeschoolers are encouraged to write about their passions, they'll have lots to say! 

Future Fencer

Tomorrow is my second fencing tournament. The tournament is at St. Vincent College. I want to tell you why I love to fence, who brought me into the fencing world, and what my goals are. 

I love fencing because it is a very physical sport and I enjoy physical sports. i also love it because it is called 'chess on your feet.' Fencing has strategy like chess, which is my favorite game. Fencing can be an individual or a team sport. I love fencing. 

When I was five, I met Norm Flam. He owns the Toy Soldier Gallery, and I went there because I collect toy soldiers. One year later, I found out that Norm and his wife, Robbie, taught a fencing class. Once I found that out, I asked Norm if I could fence. Norm answered, "You are too young. Come see me when you are ten." Feeling in dismay, I went home. I kept begging Norm to teach me to fence for two years. Near my 8th birthday, I went to Norm's and asked him if I could fence again. Surprisingly, his answer was yes! I was very excited.

The Wednesday after my 8th birthday, my mom and I were at the office supply store and we ran into Robbie. She said, "Norm has been telling me how much you've been begging about fencing. Tonight is one of our classes. Do you want to come over?" Being so excited, I couldn't say yes!

That night I will remember for the rest of my life. I thought I was going to dress up in the fencing clothes and go out and fence. But, I didn't know anything about fencing yet! So, I took lessons for about a month and Robbie finally told me, "You're ready to go dress up and fence." 

A month after that, Norm told my mom, "He's ready to get his own equipment." When the UPS person delivered my stuff, I jumped up and down saying, "Mommy, the UPS guy is here!" I opened the box and found my very first sword, mask, glove, and jacket. The foil, or sword, was very shiny. It felt comfortable in my hand, as though I was meant to fence for my whole life. 

That Christmas I received my electric fencing equipment. The lame, or jacket, was too small, so Mom sent it back to trade in for a larger one. I also got two electric foils, two body chords, and a bag to carry my equipment. You need electric equipment to fence in tournaments. 

March 3, 2002 was possibly the most exciting day of my life, my first fencing tournament. Although everybody crushed me, I had fun, which is all that matters. A few weeks after the tournament, Norm told me, "You have another fencing tournament coming up." More than excited, I worked very hard for over a month. 

It is now Friday, April 26, 2002. Tomorrow is the tournament at St. Vincent College. My goal is to at least take 3rd place or get a rating. If I do, I will be the youngest rated person in Norm's club. 

Now I've told you about my love of fencing, my coach, and what my goals are. I am very excited about tomorrow because this is a big deal to me. Some people may not think it is very exciting, but I do. If you are interested in fencing, come to the YMCA and watch our class on Wednesdays and Fridays at 6:00pm. 


Kudo's to Dale on setting high goals early on-- and meeting them!! And he still loves fencing, too!


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